Received April 18, 2003
Easter Message 2003
Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem

Peace from God, the Father and creator of all mankind, and love and greetings from the city of the Resurrection, from Jerusalem.  My prayer for each and everyone of you is that you be empowered by the Spirit of the Risen Lord, and that the peace and joy that came from Him who defeated death by dying, Jesus Christ, the first risen from the dead, may be yours and your dear ones throughout the coming days and years.

Christians in many parts of our Global Village celebrate what they call Easter.  Reference is made in our church calendars to Easter Day, Easter Monday, Eastertide and the like.  Arab Christians in Jerusalem, in Palestine, in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and the rest of the Arab countries refer to it as the “Feast of the Resurrection.”  Whereas some refer to the site of the crucifixion as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we name it “Kanisat Al-Qiyamah”, the Church of the Resurrection.

It is neither the holiness of the Sepulchre, nor its emptiness that matters most in our faith!  It was, and is, and will be:  The Resurrection, the first Risen from the dead, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14 & 17 says

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain.

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

It is this faith in the Risen Lord, in the Resurrection that causes us, in these most trying and difficult times, to stand firm and never compromise our convictions in the ultimate victory of good, of justice, of love, of peace, of reconciliation, of joy and of life.

Though we, the Arab Palestinians at large, Christians in particular, are made to walk through the valley of death, in our little Via Dolorosa compared to what happened in Iraq in the last few weeks.  In spite of wars and rumours of wars, of the thousands and tens of thousands of those killed, injured in body and spirit, humiliated and turned homeless and made to share in the sufferings of our Lord, we endeavor to defeat hopelessness by sharing hope, and sharing life even in the midst of death.  These are times when we are challenged not so much as to wash the feet of others, but to help wash away their tears, their pain, their wounds and heal their broken hearts. Then we become more worthy to sing in joyful voices

Alleluia

“He is not here!  He is Risen”

Death, wars and the weapons of evildoers can never have the last word. Only the weapons of God, a just and lasting peace, will bring us all life.  Life in Him will have the last word and then we will be able to join Him and proclaim:  “It is accomplished!”  Alleluia.
 

+ The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal

Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem